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During a blisteringly hot stretch in July, we had a crazy idea to take our 5 kids gold panning in Southern Oregon. We left the verdant coolness of the Willamette Valley and headed deeper into the hottest heat spell Oregon’s had in years. Gold panning can be productive in the Wolf Creek area of Josephine County, so we booked two nights at Wolf Creek Campground, camping near Wolf Creek Inn.
Wolf Creek Inn
When we first drove through the town of Wolf Creek, we immediately noticed the old Wolf Creek Inn. It was closed for renovations so we couldn’t go inside, and we’d love to visit again just to see this place. Nearby is a convenience store with ice, wood, gas, and basic amenities.
Wolf Creek Campground
The campground is actually right in town, in Wolf Creek. This was our first time, in 15 years of camping, that we’ve stayed so near to any population. Usually we’re middle-of-nowhere campers. So it was kind of strange for us to have houses just a few hundred feet away. However, as we drove into the campground, we saw number posts for camping spots and knew we were in the right place.
We’d reserved #13, partly because it was closest to water on the map, and partly because other reviews said it was a good spot. As it turned out, we were the only campers in the whole campground that night, so we could have chosen anything. A quick walk around, though, and we were happy to stay at #13. It’s right on the creek, which was mostly dry in the middle of July (and a very dry year for Oregon). There was a water pump directly across the road, which my kids thought was amazing. I guess we’ve stayed in too many campgrounds without water lately!
|Space #13, our reserved spot. Bookings are through Josephine County.|
|Campsite 13 – Wolf Creek (the actual creek) is beyond those bushes in the background.|
|Wolf Creek at Campsite 13. Pretty much dry, though there was running water at either end (near campsite 12 and the Group site)|
Best of all, for the kids, there was a small playground. We’ve never stayed anywhere with a playground. It had a swing, a slide, and a bouncy dinosaur. That was plenty for my kids, who are used to throwing rocks into circles scratched into the dirt. They were in heaven.
Night at Wolf Creek Campground
Our first night was very quiet, since it was just us and the friendly camp host. We could hear the highway, not I-5 but the Lower Wolf Creek Road which went up the hill above the campground. Our second night we had neighbors, but it was another quiet night.
Overall, our stay at Wolf Creek Campround in Josephine County was a good one. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again. If you’re in to such things, there’s disc golf, a picnic shelter, a swim hole, and an unused baseball diamond. Lots of poison oak, so be aware and don’t stray off the paths.
The bathrooms are pit toilets, nothing fancy whatsoever. But there’s electricity at many of the campsites, plus water hookups for RVs. There’s a dump station, too, for RVs. Trash service and a very friendly host to make sure everything is stocked and clean.
Things to do nearby
This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course. We only stayed two days, but we did stumble on Golden, Oregon, a ghost town that is now managed by Oregon State Parks. Our kids really enjoyed this stop, and we all had fun wandering amongst the old buildings and imagining life “way back when”.
It was blisteringly hot during our trip, and one day we headed south to the Oregon Caves. Instead of 108 degrees, we enjoyed the natural 42 degrees of the cave, and the air-conditioning of the lodge.
And finally, gold panning, which was supposed to be the focus of our trip. This didn’t pan out (haha, pun fully intended) with the heat, but we did spend our final afternoon a ways up Wolf Creek with a small sluice and our gold pan.
Cost per night: $24 via Sunrise Reservations
Amenities: pit toilet, fire ring, picnic table, potable water, electrical hookups, disc golf, playground, RV dump station, picnic shelter, camp host
Our kids ages at the time of visit: 10, 5, and 2 years
Nearby amenities: convenience store just down the road with ice, wood, and gas